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Suicide Attacker in Pakistan Kills 18 Near Khyber Pass

Officials say attacker struck on main highway in tribal area, one of busiest transportation routes into neighboring Afghanistan

Officials in northwest Pakistan say a suicide bomber blew himself up near a tribal police patrol Wednesday, killing at least 18 people, including 11 officers, and wounding more than 15 others.

The officials say the attacker struck on the main highway leading to the Khyber pass, one of the busiest transport routes into neighboring Afghanistan. The wounded were taken to nearby Peshawar for medical treatment.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Taliban militants frequently attack local Pakistani security forces as well as NATO trucks carrying supplies for troops in Afghanistan.

Separately, Pakistan's military said one of its attack helicopters crashed in a remote area of the Khyber region following a battle with militants. The fate of the crew is unclear.

Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani government official has confirmed there is "credible information" that Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud died last month of injuries he sustained in a missile strike in South Waziristan.

Mehsud's death had been widely reported, but Wednesday's announcement by Interior Minister Rehman Malik was the most definite statement to date from the central government.

Malik declined to give any further details about Mehsud's death. After an unmanned aircraft attacked the target in South Waziristan in mid-January, intelligence officials said they believed Mehsud was seriously wounded and later died.

Taliban spokesmen denied the reports and at one point released an audio recording intended to prove that Mehsud was still alive. But media reports have continued to quote anonymous Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials who said they believe he is dead.

Hakimullah Mehsud's predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. missile strike in South Waziristan last August.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.